“Cleaning your house with kids around is like brushing your teeth while eating Oreos.” I wish I could take credit for this quote but I found it somewhere on Pinterest while looking for cleaning hacks. Nonetheless, nothing more accurately describes the realities of housework with kids. Raising tiny humans is hard enough even without the complexities of laundry, yard maintenance, and dishes thrown in. I have yet to meet someone who lists “housework” as one of their preferred hobbies. If you do love housework, please give me a shout-out and maybe I can learn your ways! But really, after all the tiny human tantrums, screaming, and whining, who has energy left over for a preferred hobby? I certainly don’t. If you have no energy for a preferred hobby, I’m guessing you definitely have no energy for a non-preferred one. Thus my post on organization and cleaning hacks for the busy mom.
Messiness = Anxiety
The irony is that while cleaning itself isn’t my preferred hobby, a clean house is my preferred environment. I find that it’s simply easier to function in a clean space because clutter makes me anxious. When our third baby joined the family two years ago, my time was short and anxiety high. Learning how to balance the demands of a little one with existing demands is always tough and housework slides. As it should! Meeting the immediate needs of your littles is infinitely more important than sparkling floors. But how does a busy mom juggle the need for cleanliness with those of her tiny humans?
Let me introduce you to a little thing I like to call “mindset shifting.” I have found that changing my mindset has infinitely decreased my anxiety and am always looking for ways to incorporate it. Mindset shifting involves being open to looking at old thought patterns in a new way. For example, I used to be super stressed out about my lack of time and messy house. But then I started looking for new ways to think about certain situations and suddenly realized that I was less anxious. Let me walk you through some real life examples of cleaning hacks using mindset shifting.
Enlist the Help of Others
Although I try to incorporate my kids when cleaning, there are times when I just need to do things by myself. There are also times when I have less patience and this is when I bring out my number one hack: my hubby. He is great at keeping the kids occupied while I delve into heavy duty cleaning. Granted, he is typically only able to occupy them for 10 minutes max but I have learned to get a ton of stuff done in only 10 minutes. Whether it’s your hubby, mother-in-law, or a friend, don’t be afraid to ask for help! You’re not superwoman …. you don’t need to do it all yourself!
On those days where you do have more patience (or the tasks don’t involve bleach), enlist the help of your kids! Chances are, they are the reason your house is a disaster anyway. Why not start teaching them responsibility? Look for small tasks they can help with and praise their efforts. If you’re consistent in having them do certain tasks, they will start doing them unprompted. At least that’s what I’ve read. Full disclosure …. this hasn’t happened to me yet but a girl can hope, right?!
Embrace the Mess!
Instead of wallowing in self-pity for the messy state of your house, use the messiness to occupy your kids! Yesterday as I was vacuuming cracker crumbs and sticky candy pieces from my car, I looked over to see this. My youngest spontaneously decided to pick up his shovel and start cleaning the gravel from the garage floor. Ok, maybe my kids have learned a thing or two from observation and being involved but this act was still positively shocking! Regardless, I was able to sneak out a few extra minutes of vacuuming because he was so enthralled with shoveling.
Messiness also encourages self-sufficiency. You want your littles to eventually function in society, right? Then they need to learn the crucial skill of self-sufficiency. Sometimes messiness fosters this in a way which order never could. Case in point … my little guy was clearly hungry for cookies and instead of waiting for assistance, took matters into his own hands. He is learning that he can meet his own needs. Seriously, what could be better?!
Don’t Expect Perfection
Gone are the days when you can ever expect something to stay where you put it. You now live in a world where your kid is silent for 2 minutes, you go to see what they’re doing, and this is what you find. In case you’re wondering, my 2-year-old is standing on a stepstool watching Mickey and hitting an overripe squash with a container of bubbles. And laughing hysterically while doing it. Before mindset shifting, I would have cursed myself for not using that squash when I bought it 3 weeks ago. Instead, I said a silent prayer of thanksgiving that the bubbles didn’t open and spill everywhere. See how these cleaning hacks work?
Perfectionism is my downfall every time. I have learned that a great deal of my anxiety comes from a false belief that things should be done perfectly or not at all. Having kids has forced me to learn that “done” is way better than “perfect.” Learning to let go of perfectionism also brings with it a sense of happiness impossible to achieve if you’re chasing an unreasonably high bar.
Cleaning Hacks Done Naturally
Let’s move our cleaning hacks outside. When we bought our house 5 years ago, the outside had a beautifully manicured lawn and a range of interesting plants. To be fair, we did buy the house from a retired couple who were clearly master gardeners. Or at least I would consider them master gardeners. Although I grew up on a farm and my hubby truly believes he would survive on the show “Naked and Afraid,” neither of us are gardeners in any sense of the word. The above is what we have now. I affectionately refer to it as the “natural Northwoods look.”
The “natural Northwoods look” bothered me until our third son was born prematurely. At that point, I was just so thankful he was fine that nothing else mattered. Not the stuffed animals scattered all over the living room, not the overripe squash, and not even the “natural Northwoods look.” All that mattered was the love I had for my littles and my hubby.
You Do You
In today’s world, it’s so easy to get caught up in a game of comparison and feelings of inadequacy. Friends, family members, and random acquaintances post pictures of their spotless houses with gorgeous landscaping and it’s enough to make Martha Stewart herself feel inadequate. Use those moments to shift your mindset to what really matters – your loved ones. Let’s face it, even if my hostas were in fabulous condition and half my lawn wasn’t destroyed by moles, Better Homes and Gardens still would not be knocking on my door to get a photo shoot. And that’s ok! Be the best mom that you can be, try your very best, and fill your home with love. I guarantee that you will feel a ton better and even enjoy the beautiful life that you’ve created.